History of the Industry
The industry started evolving rapidly back in the eighties. Two Control companies (Crestron and AMX) were the dominant players in the control industry back then. I say control because this what its all about. The reason that we are talking today and companies like ours exist is because of one primary industry feature. That is control or in other words feedback. Being able to see information that relates to what the components are doing whether they are an FM Tuner, a dimmer, a thermostat, an alarm system etc. and be able to manipulate the state of those devices based on the information that we are receiving on an interface (Touch-screen or remote) is what this industry was built on. Granted, audio distribution throughout the house also evolved and remote technologies in general but without control there would simply not be any reason for you to have speakers throughout your home if you could not access the music and send it to those locations independently with independent control within those areas.
So back in the day Crestron and AMX developed an interface. A touch-screen that via a graphic user interface (GUI) was able to relate information to a main controller that had on board relays and IR ports and Serial ports etc. the foundation of control. Since windows were not around back then, the programming was performed via a programming language called C++. Multiple pages of code had to be written for people to lower a projector in a board room back then but you can imagine the impact this had in the industry.
Other companies followed and developed their own interfaces but none of them was based on C++ and were much less expensive and complicated in comparison to those two primary companies. The industry moved forward with Crestron and AMX catering to the very affluent people that could afford that unique system design and interface and they got much more involved in Lighting Control and climate control and shade control etc. The ability that the programmers had to create their own unique interfaces moved these two companies to an area that they were all alone with no real competition. Of course I also want to mention that this was a very costly system that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in a lot of cases. In the 90s a company called Elan became a lot more active in this field. Elan was an audio company that used to make amplifiers, tuners, volume controls etc. and that developed a windows based program for their interface which was a touch screen called Via!. A revolutionary interface that was able to do almost everything a Crestron or AMX interface could. The main exception was that the graphics on this touch-screen were not as customizable as the other two companies. But because Elan was primarily an audio company they developed in house their own amplifiers, switchers, controllers, FM Tuners etc. which gave them an edge and enabled people to own Crestron/AMX similar systems for a lot less.
If you ask me personally, I say that this was the beginning of it all. Value came in to play in this industry. Elan could do lighting control, climate control, shade control anything pretty much that a Crestron system or AMX system could do with the only exception… Custom graphics. And of course people still spent a lot more money to have Crestron or AMX two products that because they happened to begin their evolution early and in the right field they were sold by the companies that sold them as the Best.
History of Control 4
In 2004 a company was being developed. Their mission was to utilize the IP revolution which had started pretty much right after the year 2002 and make this product affordable and simple to use. Their goal was to have a product that runs on its own IP network. A product that its platform would be so open and un-restrictive that it could be scaled. A product that would not be utilizing external devices made by other companies for anything from lighting to climate to AV. That company is Control 4.
You have to remember that companies such as Crestron, Amx and Elan used external company components to achieve a complete system. For example Crestron built their own touch-screens and controllers but installers had to sell Lutron for lighting, Sonance or Niles for amplification, Key Digital or Autopatch for audio video switchers and Aprilaire smart thermostats for climate control. As a matter of fact up until last year Crestron remote controls were not made by Crestron themselves but by a company called URC. The same remote that you could buy from a URC dealer for $500 you had to spend $1000 for that remote control to carry the Crestron Logo and it still did not provide the user with Feedback on it (feedback is to be able to see what preset station the tuner is at or which mp3 you are listening to). What I am saying is that Crestron basically subbed out everything except the one thing that they were best at. Which is Interfaces (Touch-screens). Pretty similar path had AMX with the main exception that AMX purchased companies and further developed their product lines to match their systems. Elan even though it had all the AV and control equipment designed and built they were lacking in the feed back aspect of the their systems because they could not fully control internal or external components with a “pretty” interface (primitive looking graphics).
Control 4 in the other hand, designed and developed their own lighting devices, their own thermostats and their own complete line of audio visual components. Everything from audio switchers to 3 revolutionary IP based digital amplifiers to remote controls, touch-screens etc. But the most important thing that Control 4 did from the start in my opinion is the Graphic user interface on the TV's themselves. No other company had ever thought of the simplicity that this brings to the homeowner, their wife, children, parents etc. Control 4 aimed for simplicity. The same intuitive interface to follow you around the house whether you are holding a hand held remote control or a touch-screen, or an I-PAD or simply look at your TV set and navigate through its simple menu.
I am sure that I am boring you at this point but what I am explaining is that just like Crestron and AMX paved the way in our industry and carried it forward for 20 years, the same exact way Control 4 re-invented our industry and is now paving the way for the next 30. There is nothing that this system cannot perform within a very reasonable scalable budget and with the simplicity that enables the user to not have to worry about what to press and which sub-menu to enter but it just lets them enjoy it every day easy.
BY: Panos Anassis